Tribe Backs Strong Bauer Start with Three Solo Shots; Indians 4, Cubs 1

Trevor Bauer gave the Cleveland Indians six and two-thirds innings of one-run baseball and his offense backed him with three solo home runs in a 4-1 win over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night.

It was a fantastic night in downtown Cleveland, where both of its active sports teams put together three-point wins in their respective contests in the Gateway Complex (the neighboring Cleveland Cavaliers won Game 5 of their first round playoff series with the Indiana Pacers on a “walk-off” three-pointer by LeBron James). Bauer gave Tribe fans present another quality pitching performance on the mound, and while the offense struggled to put together much against Chicago starter Jon Lester, they made their swings count when they needed it the most.

Lester entered with a career’s worth of success against the Indians, especially at Progressive Field, where he came into the night’s action with a 4-0 record and a 3.72 ERA in eight career outings. He was good early, as was his counterpart Bauer, as the two went toe-to-toe from the pitching slab.

Bauer allowed base runners in each of the first three innings, but forced the Cubs into stranding a pair of runners in scoring position. He hit Anthony Rizzo with a pitch with two outs in the first, but eliminated him on a force out at second. Villian Kyle Schwarber walked with one down in the second and moved to second on a wild pitch, but advanced no further. Two reached in the third on back-to-back singles by Albert Almora Jr. and Javier Baez, but they were stranded as Bauer struck out Rizzo and got Willson Contreras to ground back to the mound. He retired the side in order in the fourth for the first time on the night.

Guyer – Jason Miller/Getty Images

Lester contained the Indians at a better clip. Besides a two-out single by Jose Ramirez in the first and a two-out walk by Edwin Encarnacion in the fourth, the southpaw worked quickly through the Tribe order.

The Cubs took advantage of some Bauer wildness in the fifth to scratch across the first run of the night. Ian Happ drew a walk with one out and scooted up to second on a wild pitch. Almora worked a five-pitch walk to put two on for Baez. He struck out swinging, but Rizzo dropped in a two-out single to right-center, scoring Happ to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead midway through.

The tides changed for the Indians in the home half of the fifth in a good at bat by Brandon Guyer with two outs. After working the count to 3-1, he got an offering from Lester over the dish and he got his hands around quickly, yanking the ball high and deep to left and off of the foul pole for a game-tying solo home run.

After Bauer worked around a two-out error by Guyer in the next half inning, his offense got back to work and changed the direction of the night. Lindor got a fastball away and sent it the opposite way over the wall in right for a leadoff home run to give the Indians their first lead of the night. After Kipnis and Ramirez struck out, Encarnacion took a strike before seeing a heater at the knees that he drilled to the bleachers for the second solo homer of the inning, extending the Tribe lead to 3-1.

Bauer exited with two outs in the seventh after an infield single by Baez. Andrew Miller came on to face the left-handed Rizzo, but after just two pitches, left the game with what was described afterwards as a left hamstring injury. Tyler Olson entered after extra time to warm up and got Rizzo to fly to center.

Encarnacion – Jason Miller/Getty Images

The unusual eighth inning tandem of Olson and Nick Goody got out of a potential jam in one of the Cubs’ last hopes to keep it a two-run game. Contreras doubled to center to start the inning and moved to third on a groundout. Olson struck out Schwarber swinging for the second out and Goody entered and struck out Addison Russell to leave a big run at third base.

The Indians added an insurance run in the bottom half. Lindor walked off of reliever Mike Montgomery. Kipnis attempted to move Lindor to second with a bunt and was thrown out at first, but in an odd turn of events, Rizzo fired to second base to throw behind his fellow former Platinum Glove winner Lindor. The ball skipped past the bag and into the void in left-center as Lindor advanced two bases on the throwing error and scored the Tribe’s fourth run of the night.

Cody Allen came on for the save in the ninth, retiring Heyward, Happ, and Almora in order for his fifth save in five chances.

The Indians improved to 13-9 on the season and moved to 7-3 at Progressive Field on the year. They hold a three-game lead over Detroit in the AL Central after Minnesota dropped its six straight decision. The Cubs fell to 11-10 on the year and 8-6 away from home with the series split.

BIG GAME FROM BAUER

Bauer (2-2) had to work around an unfavorable ball-strike ratio in the early portion of the game, but he was able to minimize damage and keep his three free passes from coming back to haunt him. He worked six and two-thirds innings, allowing a run on four hits while striking out a season-high eight batters. He threw 111 pitches, including 68 for strikes. He was aggressive with the strike zone, leading the count on the first pitch to 22 of 29 batters faced.

LESTER TAKES THE L

Lester (2-1) took his first loss of the season and was dealt his first defeat against the Indians since 2010 when he was still a member of the Boston Red Sox. He lasted seven innings, giving up three runs on four hits. The long ball was his undoing as it accounted for all of the run damage and all but one hit surrendered on the night. He struck out four and walked a pair, throwing 65 of 107 pitches for strikes in his outing. He had the Indians putting the ball in the air all night long, as 13 of his outs came on fly balls, but it would be the three fly balls that passed over the wall that would be his undoing.

MORE ON MILLER

Miller’s quick departure certainly raised some concerns for an Indians bullpen that is lacking tried and true heavy duty arms.

“He’s had it before. He had it in Baltimore, he said. We’re going to get him an MRI [Thursday] morning. I think last time, he said it was three or four days,” said Indians manager Terry Francona after the game. “That would really be the hope. We’ll know a lot more [Thursday]. I think him not throwing another pitch was really smart on his part and hopefully that’s all it is.”

CABRERA ON BOARD

After several days of rumors unconfirmed by the club, the Indians officially announced the signing of free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera to a minor league deal. He will first report to the team’s complex in Goodyear, Arizona, and when ready will move on to Columbus, where he will join the Triple-A Clippers.

WHO’S NEXT?

There is no rest for the Indians during their homestand, as they welcome in the Seattle Mariners on Thursday for the start of a four-game series and the end of their season set (weather permitting). The Mariners defeated the Indians twice in three tries at Safeco Field to open the season.

The Cubs will return home to Chicago to host the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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